The killings sparked clashes with fighters and Israeli troops, witnesses and medics said on Sunday.

The Israeli army confirmed its forces stormed Absan village before dawn, saying they were hunting for armed fighters.

Among the dead was Salim Qudih, a senior member of Islamic resistance group Hamas, and his 34-year-old wife Sanaa. Medical sources had earlier misidentified the woman as Qudih's mother. 

The army said troops had fired on a Hamas man who ignored orders to stop and fled with a woman in tow. "He was shot and blew up, perhaps because he was wearing a bomb belt. We believe the woman was also hurt in the blast," an army spokesman said, adding troops had reported shooting two other fighters. 

Medics said there was blast damage to the Qudihs' bodies. But the head of the nearby Red Crescent Hospital, Doctor Abu Dalal, said the Hamas commander and his wife had "died as a result of an explosion, but not one that was self-inflicted."

There were no details immediately available on the two other resistance fighters and bystander killed in Absan. Hopsital officials said at least 10 Palestinians were wounded in the raid, which sparked fierce clashes between troops and local fighters.

Resistance attack

In a seperate incident, two Palestinians were killed on Sunday evening when Israeli soldiers opened fire on two men approaching the Kisufim border crossing.

Military sources allege the two were part of an armed group that had entered a forbidden zone in order to stage an attack.

Palestinain security officials confirmed they had been contacted by the border guards and instructed to remove the bodies.

Teenager killed

Late on Saturday, a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli occupation troops in the northern West Bank town of Nablus.

Palestinian medical and security sources said Muhammad Ishtawi abu Muhsin was killed by three bullets in the head when Israeli soldiers opened fire at the entrance to the Palestinian Balata refugee camp in Nablus.

Palestinian security sources said separate clashes broke out between young Palestinians and soldiers in the area at the time the soldiers began firing.

An Israeli army spokesman claimed the soldiers fired at an "armed Palestinian" who intended to attack them.

The latest killings bring to 56 the number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of March.

Palestinian observers believe the recurrent killings, particularly in the Gaza Strip, are aimed, first and foremost, at avoiding the “Lebanese scenario.”

“The Israeli army wants any withdrawal from Gaza to be victorious,” said Azmi Shua’bi, a Palestinian lawmaker and former cabinet minister.

“They don’t want to repeat the debacle of the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000 which was viewed in the Arab world as a defeat and an escape.”